I recently returned from an incredible 9 days in Ankara, Turkey, where I attend the Bilkent Composition Academy. The academy ran two modules, one with Eivind Buene and Cikada of Norway, and the other with Arditti Quartet (UK) and Hanna Eimermacher (DE) (replacing Mark Andre who couldn’t attend). I was fortunate to be involved in both modules, having my recent work Dust, Dew (which was originally commissioned and premiered by Kupka’s Piano) performed by Cikada, and my older work Unravelling Graphite (premiered by Kurilpa String Quartet in 2016) revisited and performed by the Arditti Quartet!


…I really never thought that at this stage in my life I’d be working with these two incredibly renowned ensembles and then only around the corner to be working with Elision upon my return. It’s an understatement to say I feel elated and somewhat in disbelief! (more about Elision soon…)

Back to Ankara! The week long academy was filled with lectures, rehearsals, individual lessons, group sessions, discussions, and concerts. Alongside the performance of our own works Cikada performed a portrait concert of Eivind Buene’s works and Arditti performed Lachenmann’s Grido, and Mark Andre’s “iv13” miniatures, amongst others. I had individual lessons with Buene, Eimermacher, and also with guest Samir Odeh-Tamimi. All three focused on very different components of music making including: the nature and identity of the abstract, the composing and collaboration with human beings rather than instruments, and the discussion of culture, identity, and ritual.

In addition to lectures given by those already mentioned plus guest professors Mahir Cetiz, Noel Zahler (plus more), rehearsals were open to both fellow active and passive participants of the academy, with a debriefing group lesson afterwards. I’ll add that one of the great strengths of this academy, outside of everything else mentioned, is the number and length of rehearsals! We had 4 rehearsals each between 60mins and 80mins each with Cikada, and 3 of similar length with Arditti. This is still rarity in art music and one very very appreciated at Bilkent!

As for listening… Eivind’s Lessons in Darkness (super quirky, like a space-video game on acid!!) and Hanna’s The Hurdy Gurdy (fat gorgeous microtonal chords!) were two works (and two composers) that really grabbed my attention!!

It was such an honour to be part of Bilkent Composition Academy this year and to listen, learn, and discuss with fellow early career composers from the UK, Germany, Bulgaria, Turkey, Iran, Hong Kong, and (Australia). This was my first time in Turkey, a country I’ve wanted to visit ever since hearing Ottoman music by Hespèrion XXI back in my undergrad days. Although I couldn’t stay long, nor explore much, I found Ankara to be an incredible city; one crawling over the Anatolian mountains, transformed from an ancient settlement that traverses the rise and fall of civilisations, to that of a modern metropolis rising from the foundation of the Turkish Republic.

Ankara in the distance
Bilkent University Faculty of Music
Bilkent University Faculty of Music

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